Tonight I came across the hand-written transcript of a long talk that I had with Dad in November of 2010 in which he told of his annual trip to Southern Oregon family gravesites. We had taken this trip every Memorial Day weekend of my childhood. It's been thirty years since I made the trip, and in recent years have tried get back out there. But when I sat with Dad, I had a feeling that this was going to be as close as I would get, at least with his company. Today, I sit with vague messy handwriting, dictated by a faltering 86 year old, wondering, still, if I'll ever get there, or if my notes will do me any good. The whole thing goes a bit like this:
- "...there is only one cemetery in Rogue River, 15 miles out of Grants Pass, eight miles to town of Rogue River, turn N (left) into downtown Rogue River, Main Street is 3 blocks off bridge. off to right is bridge, turn Left off I5 approximate mile to the cemetery going south at cemetery go to the main entrance (there are at least 3) central straight down street 1 1/2 block one grave is my great grandmother, a Steward, Otis Byron Steward's mother. Incidentally, let's back up to Masonic cemetery, I always leave a boquet of flowers and clean the land Dad deeded half of that plot back to the plot...Mom can tell you who is buried there...her grandparents...TP Cramer...go into the 2nd entrance into FOE (both have archers over entrance so you an tell) so I always put flowers on the Cramer plot. And the Steward plot, 2 entrances to 2 cemeteries, one into Masonic once you're through the gates you can't tell which is which, go into masonic entrance, straight down that street two blocks...etc...."
The notes go on like this, and it's tough to imagine following this ledger and not getting completely lost. Not to miss a great opportunity to explore some fabulously beautiful country, but heck, what do I do with this? Well, on the hottest day of December, probably, ever, I do the unthinkable. I check the internet, of course! I get that familiar feeling of excitement tinged with the loss of hands-on discovery that we have when we realize that it's right here, at a finger stroke. Plug into google the name: Central Point Cemetery, and I find it's most likely one of two cemeteries (aided by Dad's directions I realize it's the 100F) and within minutes I find record of the Nussbaums and the Stidhams that are buried there. Dig a little deeper, and I'm on another site, in Glendale, Oregon. This stop was always an "extra" for Dad, only if there was enough time and the rest of us weren't too cranky.
At Glendale was buried "Baby Stidham". Strange, the record isn't in the online listing, until I read that whoever has recorded the markers misspelled Stidham, and wrote Baby Stedham, no known info about dates and family. And so it goes, For now, I'll take the knowledge that I can go on a road trip sometime in the future, aided in part by Dad's directions, but I'll most likely have smartphone and gps and web browser in hand, just in case I need another bit of help. And so it goes. Crank the heat up to 74F on a December day in Chicago, expecting that somehow everything is going to be alright. Put on the back burner, again, a trip to a place that is disappearing from memory and even existence, since, of course, we can find everything we need right here, plugged in.